Dallas Stars Mailbag Volume 2: ASG, Stanley Cup Contenders, and more

SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 25: Miro Heiskanen #4 of the Dallas Stars competes in the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater during the 2019 SAP NHL All-Star Skills at SAP Center on January 25, 2019 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 25: Miro Heiskanen #4 of the Dallas Stars competes in the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater during the 2019 SAP NHL All-Star Skills at SAP Center on January 25, 2019 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Here is the second online mailbag of the season, where we answer questions about the All-Star Game, playoff pictures, and more Dallas Stars news.

Yes and no. I think the current system—where each team gets one representative—is a good way for the league to get all 31 franchises involved in the All-Star Weekend experience. From a monetary standpoint, the league likes this system because it’s good for revenue and generates PR in markets such as Arizona or Carolina where the fanbase isn’t as hardcore as that of other teams, for example, Montreal, Washington, or New York.

If I had to change the way it works, I’d use some aspects that the NBA uses for their All-Star Weekend. For the selection process, I’d rely on fan voting to make the vast majority of players named to the All-Star process; the purpose of the weekend is for fans to see the best players in the world compete in fun-spirited competitions. Additionally, I would be ok if the league got rid of the “every team sends a player” notion, even though it helps make the league more money. Although teams can send more than one player, this would help teams with more loaded rosters give guys other than the “star player” a chance to give multiple big-name players an opportunity to participate in the All-Star Game.

Several players with high point totals such as Mitch Marner, Morgan Rielly, Brayden Point, and Sean Monahan, for example, were not selected for the ASG despite being towards the top of the league in scoring. If the NHL turned to a system that didn’t require each team to send someone, other higher-scoring players would probably have made the All-Star rosters.

I don’t think that the NHL will change the selection process any time soon, but if I were to change it in any way I’d like, that would be it. #BringBacktheFantasyDraft

Yes. I think that Heiskanen has risen to higher heights than anyone in the Stars’ organization or the league could’ve predicted, especially in his first year in the league. I think that he did deserve to be the Stars’ representative. If the league used with a different system (and assuming the NHL did not follow the every-team-sends-a-guy strategy), I don’t know if he would’ve been selected. This is not to say he isn’t worthy of All-Star status; it’s that he just plays “under the radar” and doesn’t need to be the show-stopper or center of attention when he plays to make an impact on the ice, and there is nothing wrong with that.

I am a bit surprised that Alexander Radulov wasn’t the Stars’ selection—he was tied for first on the team in points with Seguin at the time and is a fan favorite similar to that of Heiskanen—but looking back, I am glad Miro was the guy and he served as a good representative for the team; he is able to say he was an All-Star in his rookie season in the NHL, and I am sure he’ll be back to the ASG in the future.

All in all, he deserved it.

What a story.

As for question one, I do think the Pens will raise the Stanley Cup again in the next three to four years—but I don’t think they will this season. The Pens are barely inside the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and hold the second wild-card spot in the East.

They do hold a four-point buffer over the Buffalo Sabres, but a few good games for Jack Eichel & Company could bump Pittsburgh out of the playoff picture.

The good news for Pens fans is that so long as their scoring continues to produce, they should be in good shape to make the playoffs. Five players on their roster (Crosby, Kessel, Malkin, Guenztel, and Letang) have at least 40 points this season and the top three have over 50. Crosby, Kessel, and Malkin are also all in the top 30 in the league in scoring. All but six players on their team have double digits in points, and the team is sixth in the league in goals scored.

Pittsburgh’s biggest problem preventing them from making a strong playoff run would be an injury to one of their goaltenders—Matt Murray in particular.

Murray has played well this season at 14-6-1 and is posting a .913 save percentage. Importantly, Murray has playoff experience, having recorded a .923 save percentage and 2.08 GAA in 44 postseason games. If Murray goes down to an injury, the Pens are left with Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry, neither of whom have ever played in the postseason.

Murray’s health is very important to keeping Pittsburgh in the playoff race, but I don’t think they’ll win the cup this year—teams like Tampa and the Islanders have more scoring than Pittsburgh can keep up with.

Backup Question

Picking Marc-Andre Fleury in the expansion draft was a great move for Vegas. Fleury leads the league in wins with 27 and in shutouts with six. He has also played more games than any other goaltender (45) and is a fan favorite in Las Vegas. Not to mention that he was a big component in their journey to the Stanley Cup Finals last season.

Fleury signed a three-year extension that is worth $21 million last July. Even though he is 34, he’s still got it—and his numbers prove it.

Twitter DM Submission: “What steps need to be made for the stars to win a championship within the next two years?”

Depth scoring, depth scoring, depth scoring, and some more depth scoring.

Did I mention depth scoring?

A few years ago, the Stars looked like the team to beat. They could score like nobody’s business (they led the league in goals in 2015-16), and the team’s goaltending during the 2015-16 regular season was stellar—Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi won 25 games each to help Dallas win the West for the first time in team history since 2003.

There’s just one problem; their defense was subpar.

Related Story. Stars Mailbag Volume 1: Behind the bench, young talent, and more. light

Then the playoffs started. For the most part, Dallas played well. They beat Minnesota in six games before they were tasked with facing goaltender Brian Elliott and the St. Louis Blues. Dallas was able to reach game seven of the series, but the goaltending fell apart, the defense wasn’t strong enough, and the Stars were knocked out of the second round.

This season, we are seeing more of the opposite. Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin have both had fantastic seasons and are largely responsible for keeping Dallas in playoff contention. The defense, which many people (including myself) thought would have problems, has managed to keep Dallas’ goals against very low in respect to other teams, and players like Heiskanen and Esa Lindell have been bright spots on the blue line.

I did think that the “point disparity” on the roster needed to shorten, and it has, but not the way I’d wish it did.

In my article “Five Keys to the Stars’ Success Next Season,” I wrote this:

"Having All-Stars like Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, and John Klingberg is great. The one caveat, however, is that the Dallas Stars tend to lack offensive depth. After the “fab four” named above, the next highest point scorer on Dallas’ roster is Mattias Janmark at 34. Although he had a career year, Janmark finished 33 points behind the player above him, Klingberg, who finished with 67."

In other words, other players aside from the “All-Stars” needed to produce to help fill the ranks of Dallas’ roster. I think it’s safe to say that hasn’t happened this season, and the team’s scoring overall has dropped dramatically compared to past seasons.

The Stars have shown in past seasons that a team can get by with an average blue line in the regular season so long as the scoring is dominant—and in the 2015-16 season, it was lethal. A few years later, however, we are seeing the exact oppsite. The defense has bent but not broken, and the offense is struggling to consistently score goals.

I think they did because Stars’ GM Jim Nill probably called asking if the Pens would be willing to deal him back—and with Pittsburgh defenseman Justin Schultz close to being healthy, they could lose the ‘Big Rig’ and would still be able to survive defensively.

Oleksiak played well with the Penguins and will fill a much needed physical presence that has been lacking on the Stars blueline. Before they added him on Monday afternoon, the biggest player on Dallas’ defense (that is healthy) is Roman Polak, who weighs 240 pounds and stands at 6’2″. The second biggest healthy defenseman was Esa Lindell at 210 pounds, but he isn’t known for being a physical defenseman—he’s an offensive defenseman. Nill recognizes that the Stars defense is full of skillful and crafty blueliners that don’t play with a physical edge like Oleksiak does, so I’d guess that is what prompted the trade.

It will be interesting to see what goes from here in terms of what moves the Stars make leading up to the deadline. Nill is on the hot seat this year; and if Dallas misses the playoffs for the third season in a row, Stars’ owner Tom Gaglardi might want to find someone else to take Nill’s job by the time next season rolls around. I think Nill knows this, and he also knows that trading for Andrew Cogliano and Jamie Oleksiak is not going to fix Dallas’ scoring issues. Because of that, I still might think that Nill has more up his sleeve and he might try to pull a rabbit out of a hat and push Dallas into the postseason. If he doesn’t, Dallas will have to make do with what they have and try to put together a playoff run.

Next. Stars trade 2019 4th Round Pick to Pens for ex-Star Jamie Oleksiak. dark

  • Published on 02/04/2019 at 17:01 PM
  • Last updated at 02/04/2019 at 16:10 PM